Saturday, 21 October 2017

Review: My Side of the Diamond by Sally Gardner


This book was so weird. I don't really know what else to say, really. Despite the quote on the front of the book, 'they came to Earth to find love', I didn't really pick up on the whole alien thing until I started reading, and it was peculiar, to say the least. The story was good; it was fast-paced and interesting. I liked that it was written from the perspective of lots of different characters as if they were being interviewed, as this meant that you got the details slowly, not all thrown at you in the last few pages. It was also good that you don't find out who 'Mr Jones' is until the last couple of pages either, as this kept the story interesting.

A note on the book itself, it is BEAUTIFUL. Designed to look like a notebook, it has an elastic to keep it closed, and it's just a gorgeous looking book.

I mean, I read the majority of this story in one sitting, so it was good and engaging, but weird. Definitely weird. If you like alien stories, you will definitely like this.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Review: 36 Questions That Changed My Mind About You by Vicki Grant


I'm conflicted. I so badly wanted to LOVE this book, but something wasn't quite there for me. To be honest, I don't really buy the relationship between the two main characters. I know they say that opposites attract, and while this works in theory, I just think these characters were TOO different to really work in 'real life'.

Also, despite finding her quite irritating, Hildy reminded me quite a lot of myself - which probably says more about me than it does about this book.

The story was good; I love the idea of the 36 questions and the potential to form relationships with other people. I also liked how you find out more about each character as the story progresses, and how they came to volunteer for the study at all. This book was good and I liked it, I just didn't love it like I thought I would.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Review: The Hanging Girl by Eileen Cook


THAT TWIST THOUGH! I'll be honest, it took me a little while to get into this book, but after 70 or so pages I couldn't put it down.

The twist was so unexpected - I actually gasped out loud and I rarely do that when reading books. This book was really well written; fast paced and interesting so that you want to keep turning the pages.

I go back and forth about how I feel about Candi/Skye/Cate. At first she was likeable, then you learn her secret and you question her character, despite understanding why she did what she did, and then the rest of the story is her going backwards and forwards between someone you like and someone you don't. But despite everything she does, you can kind of see WHY she makes these decisions - or I can, anyway.

This was an ideal book for me - exciting, fast-paced and wrapped up well. All in all, it was fantastic.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Review: Mischling by Affinity Konar


I'm so thankful that this book has a happy ending, because it is hard-going up until that point. It perfectly highlights the horrors of Auschwitz, and following the story of twins Stasha and Pearl makes it all the more terrifying.

Before starting this book I had actually just finished reading 'The Red Ribbon' by Lucy Adlington, which is another holocaust story, also set at Auschwitz, and it was interesting (if interesting is the right word) to read about the same time period from a slightly different point of view. Equally heartbreaking, but both with a hopeful ending.

This novel does a fantastic job at hinting at the horrors that went on in Dr. Mengele's lab without explicitly stating it outright. This is an important distinction because in a fiction book about a very real event, there is a fine line between telling and hinting at, and this author does that fantastically.

A brilliant book, if that's the right way to describe it. A haunting story with a hopeful ending, that's written well enough to enjoy.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Review: The Red Ribbon by Lucy Adlington


This is another one of those books where 'outstanding' or 'amazing' just seem like the wrong words to use, given the tragic context of the story. But this novel really is outstanding. I read the entire thing in a few hours, completely unexpectedly, because I found that I couldn't put it down.

The actual book itself was absolutely gorgeous - and I loved the fact that the cover encapsulates the pages, creating a little box effect. I know they say that you shouldn't judge a book by it's cover, but this one has to be up there with one of the best that I've seen.

The characters are by far the best part of this story - the friendship between Ella and Rose is so incredibly heart-warming, and even the slightly less savoury characters can't help but resonate with you. This is essentially a story about survival in the most brutal of circumstances, and this is a story that is going to stay with me for a long time.

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Review: No Shame by Anne Cassidy


'Good' doesn't really seem like the appropriate word to describe this novel, but it really was. Good, that is.

I read this entire novel in one sitting, in about two hours. The story started straight away, there was no need for a buildup, and this meant that the pace of the entire novel moved quickly. It was heart wrenching, and this was only made worse by the knowledge that this kind of thing happens everyday to people all over the world. It also makes you think. Despite knowing what actually happened, the account that the defence lawyer gives also sounds equally plausible, and no doubt could have been the situation that happened in an alternate universe.

Again, to say that I liked this book doesn't really seem like the right thing to say, given the topic. But it was well-written and I think it's one of those books that everyone should read.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Review: Happy Days of the Grump by Tuomas Kyro


I've been so conflicted about this book. I couldn't decide whether I liked it or not, and then just as I decided that it wasn't for me, the last two chapters arrived and completely changed my perspective.

I totally get it. As a twenty-one year old, I was 'against' the Grump until the last two or three chapters, when it all became clear. The Grump suddenly morphed into an image of my granddad, who is my favourite person in the entire world, and it all made sense.

The world changes incredibly quickly, and as this book says, 'everyone knows a Grump'. They are the people, generally older, who can't keep up with how quickly life changes, especially with the introduction of things like technology, which gets more and more advanced every year.

The moral of the story, as I have chosen to understand it, is this: phone your grandparents more often. Visit them. Gently introduce them to the technology that comes so naturally to you. And remember that without them, you wouldn't even exist.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Review: Open Arms by Vince Cable


Meh. I'm not really a fan of this book, to be honest. The summary sounded really good and I was excited to read it, but it was far more political than I was expecting, and this made it incredibly hard to read.

For me, this novel never really got going. It was just a clear political statement from start to finish, and to be perfectly honest, it was dull. The only exciting parts of the story were the interactions between Kate and Deepak, but even these were few and far between. They were also completely unrealistic. Kate announces that she's in love with Deepak after meeting him what, once? Maybe twice?

It was well written, don't get me wrong, and I think it had the potential to be a really interesting story, but it there was just too much 'filler' stuff. I don't know, maybe it's just because I'm not really into political fiction, but this really didn't do it for me.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Review: Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart

I know, I know, another book review! There is a reason for all this book craziness, I promise! All will be revealed!


5 STARS IS NOT ENOUGH. This was so good! For the first couple of chapters I was a bit confused, but as soon as the story started to come together and the big twist was introduced - OH MY GOODNESS. I read it from cover to cover in about two and a half hours. Yep, I read the entire book in one sitting - it was that good. 

Lockhart's writing is eloquent and easy to follow, making the book incredibly easy to read. The characters were all relatable in their own way, and the storyline itself was just so intense and interesting. I also really liked the way the story worked backwards from the main event. If this had been written the other way around, leaving the big reveal for the end of the book, I don't think it would have been as good, and certainly not as gripping. 
I cannot say enough good things about this book. It was AMAZING.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Review: Stockholm Delete by Jens Lapidus


Meh. I don't really know how I feel about this, to be honest. I didn't really get into it until about halfway through, and even then I wasn't really that enthralled by it. You follow the story from the perspective of about five different characters, and I just think that was a bit much.

The story was interesting enough, but it was a bit too complicated at times and hard to keep up with. The twist at the end was good though, and obviously sets up for a third book. Maybe that was part of the issue - I believe this is the second novel in a series, and I haven't read the first one, so maybe that would have made it less complicated.

Considering the book is translated from Swedish, it is actually very easy to read. I didn't hate this, but I didn't love it, either. 

Friday, 25 August 2017

Review: A Semi Definitive List of Worst Nightmares by Krystal Sutherland



50 fears in 50 weeks.

I cannot even begin to explain how much I loved this book. 5 stars are not enough! Anyone who has suffered or been effected by mental health in anyway HAS to read this book. 

I loved Esther - she is flawed and therefore relatable in a way that meant I was unable to put the book down. Each character was so fascinating and the plot that pulled them all together was heart-breaking and hopeful in equal measure. It may sound like an exaggeration, but as soon as I finished this book, the first thing I wanted to do was go and find a spider and face my crippling fear once and for all. 

This book just makes such an important point about mental health - it effects everyone, whether directly or indirectly, and that it is completely okay to admit that you need help. Everyone is afraid of something, and only by dealing with that fear directly will you be able to move on.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Review: Good Friday by Lynda La Plante

Image Credit: http://lyndalaplante.com/good-friday/

This novel is a classic example of a good detective story. It was full of twists and turns, and from the very beginning I found myself trying to figure out who the 'bad guy' was. Despite guessing from the beginning, I didn't manage to figure it out, and so when the big twist was revealed I was really surprised.

The one thing I would say, is that I found Jane a little annoying. I haven't read the previous two Jane Tennison novels so I don't know whether that would have made a difference, but she was a little irritating, particularly at the beginning.

The plot was fast-paced and this made the novel incredibly easy to read. The story-line itself was really interesting, and as I said earlier, the big reveal was completely unexpected. I'd highly recommend this book to anyone who loves detective fiction.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Review: Lost for Words by Stephanie Butland


I read this book in two days. I loved it. I don't even know where to start, to be honest.

I mean, it's set in a bookshop, so what's not to love already? And the main character, Loveday (apparently that's an actual name... I've lived a very sheltered life), is so relatable. She's flawed and self-conscious and prefers her own company to that of anyone else. To sum up this book in one word, it would have to be SECRETS. This novel is full of them. Everybody keeps secrets, and the characters in this novel are no different. Loveday has spent her entire adult life working in a bookshop and lying to everyone about her past, but she eventually comes to realise that she's only hurting herself by holding onto these secrets and refusing to let go.

It was the ending of the book that really did it for me. It was tragic, but somehow bitter-sweet. I actually almost cried. As eager as I was to finish the book, I also didn't want it to end.

CANNOT RECOMMEND THIS ENOUGH. 5 stars, 10/10, would recommend to a friend. I don't know, maybe I just loved it because it was a book about books. You can't really get much better than that, to be honest.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

August and Chill

I can't believe it's August already! The months just seem to be going by quicker and quicker these days.

The arrival of August means only one thing: adult life creeps closer by the day. My postgraduate full time adult job starts in September, and I can already tell I'm going to be so busy. I'm really looking forward to it, but I'm also anxious about letting the student part of my life slip away. I didn't enjoy being a student, on reflection university was not for me, but that doesn't mean that the thought of being a fully functioning adult is a calm one.

I'm trying to spend my remaining days of 'freedom' relaxing - something that I am terrible at. I can never just chill - even when I'm watching Netflix I have to be doing something else at the same time. So I'm making a real effort to just breathe, and soak up this time before the next chapter of my life begins.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Europe in 14 Days: Switzerland

Switzerland is my favourite place of all time. If I was to move abroad, that is where I would move to. I loved it so much. We spent three days there, and it was not long enough at all. The views are just breathtaking, and it's just so pretty everywhere you go. Switzerland definitely tops my list of favourite places.




We also went up to Jungfrau, which is the highest point in Europe. The views up there were incredible too, even though it was a shocking change of temperature. 30 degrees to freezing in a matter of days!


We had the most amazing time away, and even though it was tiring and a bit stressful at times, it was all worth it. As someone who had only been to Spain before this trip, I now have a list of places that I would love to go to one day. Gotta make some money first!

Monday, 24 July 2017

Europe in 14 Days: Rome

Rome is one of the places that I was most looking forward to. We went all over the city, to all the 'tourist' places, and had the best time. The only 'downside', if that's what you want to call it, is that it was HOT. Like 37 degrees hot. As it turns out, I'm not built for hot weather, I prefer something a bit cooler, so wandering around was more tiring than I expected.

The first place that we visited was Vatican City, which was... impressive, to say the least. That's the only word I can think of to describe it.


The next thing we visited was the Trevi Fountain, which was the only thing that I absolutely HAD to see whilst in Rome. And it did not disappoint. I got to have my Lizzie McQuire moment and throw a coin over my shoulder into it, so I was happy.


We also saw the Colosseum, of course. It is impressive now, so I would have loved to have seen it before it was a ruin. We spent a fair few hours there, and I'm still not convinced we saw the entire thing. You can walk pretty much the entire way round.


I will also be returning to Rome one day. I loved it.

Europe in 14 Days: Venice

Venice is absolutely BEAUTIFUL. There are no words to describe it. We tried to fit as much as we could into the one day - we went on a boat tour and visited three separate islands surrounding Venice. The most amazing thing about them was the quiet - having islands that are only accessible by boat means no cars, and that makes for some peace and quiet.


We also went on a gondola ride around the outskirts of the city and down the Grande Canal, which allowed us to see the city in a completely different way. This was probably my favourite part of Venice.


We spent the rest of the afternoon just wandering around, and Venice is one of those places that you could just walk around forever. I will definitely be returning one day.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Europe in 14 Days: Munich

Due to the long train journeys between Amsterdam to Munich, and Munich to Venice, we only really stopped in Munich overnight. Had a chance to wander around though, and it's a pretty place. That's one of the things that all of these places had in common: there was so much to see.




Monday, 10 July 2017

Europe in 14 Days: Amsterdam

So I mentioned it in my post the other day, but I've been on holiday! Yay! The boyfriend and I decided to go on a whistle-stop tour of Europe - going to a grand total of five countries in 14 days. It's all thanks to interrailing, which I would highly recommend. It makes travelling around Europe so easy, especially if you're not a massive fan of flying.

We could have got the train to Amsterdam from the UK, but as it would have used one of our travel days and been one of the longest journeys, we decided to fly instead. We spent two days there, and it was beautiful. Amsterdam is exactly as pretty as advertised, and there is so much to look at. We went up the ADAM Lookout, which had the most incredible views, and went into a science museum to kill some time, which ended up being really entertaining.

For instagram-worthy pictures, Amsterdam is definitely a good place to go. I loved it, and definitely want to go back in the future.





Monday, 3 July 2017

Where Have I Been?!

'Where have you been?!' I hear absolutely no one cry. Well, I'm so glad you asked.

I have neglected my blog for the last few weeks because June was just so incredibly busy for me. I finished university, did two weeks work experience, got myself a job and I've been travelling around Europe for the last two weeks. Busy busy busy!

I'm so excited about the job that I will be starting soon - it is one that I really wanted and it is exactly where I belong. I feel at home there already, and I can't wait to start it properly.

I've also been travelling! Sort of. I mean, two weeks definitely counts as a holiday, but I'm not sure I'd necessarily call it 'travelling'. My boyfriend and I travelled to Amsterdam, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and France before coming back to the UK. We've seen and done so many incredible things, and I will definitely be doing blog posts on these places in the coming weeks.

I'm honestly not sure where June went - the last thing I knew, it was the end of May, and now it's already several days into July. I've got so much to catch up on!

Monday, 22 May 2017

Review: Black Widow by Chris Brookmyre


I had every intention of writing a post this week about my overall university experience, but since I only finished yesterday, I haven't really had a chance to process the fact that I have actually finished university forever. I really don't know how I feel about that yet.

As a result, I'm going to rely on my favourite subject instead - books. Finishing university means that I get to read all of my own books again, and I'm so excited.

Black Widow is not a book that I brought myself, it was a gift from my aunt, and therefore I knew absolutely nothing about it. I've never personally heard of Chris Brookmyre, but from what I can tell, he is an extremely successful author, and I can see why. I really enjoyed this book. I'm very into detective fiction at the moment anyway, having finally moved on from the dystopian fiction hype that I was on a couple of years ago.

The detective in question here is Jack Parlabane, who has been in trouble in the past and therefore has to tread carefully when it comes to investigating cases, especially high-profile ones such as the case in this novel. It wasn't until I'd finished it that I discovered that Black Widow is actually the seventh Jack Parlabane novel, but this one works perfectly well as a stand-alone, and therefore I'll presume that all the others are too.

I thoroughly enjoyed this - the story didn't release all the information at once, it slowly worked up to the big reveal at the end, and therefore you feel a sense of completion and finality that you don't get with some detective novels. The story twisted and turned all the way through so the suspects kept changing, and when it eventually came together, it was brilliant.

Highly, highly recommend this. I will certainly be checking out the others in the series.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

How To: Meditation

Image Credit: http://wccftech.com/meditation-app-aura-health-suit-fast-paced-changing-moods/

I've talked about this in the past, but I SWEAR by yoga and meditation. Without sounding too 'new-agey', I believe that it is a combination of these things that have completely changed my outlook on life.

Meditation is one of the most relaxing things you can do, but I think there is a big misconception about what it actually entails. One of the biggest misconceptions about meditation is that after your first session, you're meant to feel some sense of complete bliss and enlightenment. There is a lot of talk about 'getting it', as if there is one feeling that you HAVE to experience in order to meditate successfully. And this is not the case at all. There is no 'correct' way to meditate, and there's no right thing to feel during the process.

In theory, it's simple. Sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes, and clear your thoughts. And by that, I don't mean think of nothing. That is a literal impossibility for the majority of people. I mean just notice the thoughts that you have, and then let them pass. The trick is to not focus on anything in particular, just let thoughts come and go in your mind. The first few times you do it, you'll probably feel like it's a waste of time. Personally, I didn't feel much different after meditating for a long time. But meditation is one of those practices that benefits you over a long period of time. Even sitting and being still for as little as two minutes a day can benefit you long term. Do it last thing at night, before you go to sleep. Do it first thing in the morning, when you're getting ready for the day. It doesn't matter when you do it, the important thing is that you do. There are no downsides.


I'd recommend starting with guided meditations, to get into the swing of things. Just YouTube guided meditations or download the Headspace app, and start with just a ten minute session. Bear in mind that some of the ones you find on YouTube are a tad ridiculous and a tad too much, but make sure you find one that suits you.

Image Credit: http://wondergressive.com/meditation-help-cure-cancer/

Sunday, 7 May 2017

A Letter To My Sister, On The Day She Moves Out

Dear Millie,

I can't quite believe you are moving out of our parents house, at the ripe old age of 18. And before me, no less. Well, sort of. Over the last eighteen months, you have grown-up so much, and become a proper little adult. I'm so proud of the person that you have become, and the direction you are taking. In some ways, I think you've always been more of a grown-up than me. You know what you want and you go for it, taking no prisoners in the meantime. You are stubborn in the best possible way, and I'm so happy that you get to move on to the next stage of your life. Enjoy this time together - life is too short to argue about furniture and colour schemes.

Millie, no matter how old you get or how far away you move, you'll always be my little sister.

Love N x

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Review: Silicone Makeup Blender

Yes, my Beauty Blender is a bit grim, hence why I've stopped using it!

Silicone makeup blenders are all the rage in the beauty community right now. There has been so much hype about them, claiming that they're the next 'miracle' beauty product after the success of the Beauty Blender makeup sponge that gained popularity at the end of last year.


They're so odd looking that curiosity got the better of me, and I brought one online for precisely £1.69. I had absolutely no intention of using it long term, and even if it was crap, it was so cheap that I wasn't gonna have a hissy fit about it.

They're so odd to see for the first time, that's for sure. I mean, it's literally just a clear... something. I don't even know how to describe it. But as a Beauty Blender user, I wasn't convinced at all. I decided to use it a couple of times just for the sake of seeing if it was any good, since everyone is raving about them right now.

There are several advantages to the silicone blender over the traditional sponge. For one thing, it's far easier to clean. You literally rinse it under running water and dry it off, and done. The sponges take bloody ages to clean, and even longer to dry. The other main advantage is that the silicone blender doesn't soak up any of the makeup product like the sponge does. I've never worn foundation in my life so I can't speak for that specifically, but I wear concealer under my eyes and I need far less of the product if I'm applying it with the silicone blender than I would if I was using the sponge.

When it comes to actually applying the product, I can't say that it's incredible. It does a good job, sure, but I wouldn't necessarily say that the application is any better than when done with the sponge, or even just your fingers.

Ultimately, it has won me over. I started off completely sceptical, but the advantages of it and the fact it's low maintenance makes it a winner for me. I've pretty much replaced my Beauty Blender with it, to be honest. Yay for silicone!

Check out the silicone makeup blenders here!
And the Beauty Blenders here!

Monday, 17 April 2017

Being Anxious vs. Having Anxiety

Image Credit: https://thatgeorgianextdoor.com/2015/07/27/misconceptions
-of-anxiety-disorders/

If there is one thing that I have learned over the last couple of years, it's that there is a difference between feeling anxious and having anxiety. And I've found that too many people, young girls in particular, are using the two terms interchangeably, when they are actually two very different things.

Feeling anxious in some situations is a natural part of life. Anxiousness is one of a long range of emotions that human beings are capable of feeling, and many people feel anxious most days. This DOES NOT mean that you have anxiety. Feeling nervous before a class presentation or a job interview DOES NOT mean that you have anxiety. Feeling anxious before a flight, or before meeting a group of new people DOES NOT mean that you have anxiety. They are two VERY different things.

As someone who has anxiety, let me tell you, I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. There is no other feeling quite like it and unless you know how it feels, it's impossible to describe. I once described it to my boyfriend as feeling like I was drowning. It's feeling nothing and everything all at once. It does, of course, effect everyone differently, but I think everyone who suffers with it would tell you the same thing - it's one of the worst feelings in the entire world. Claiming to have anxiety when you don't does no one any favours, and pretending that you feel better than you do doesn't do you any good either.

I highly recommend yoga and meditation to help deal with it - I can honestly say that it's helped so much. And if you are in a dark period right now, don't lose hope. There is light at the end of the tunnel, I promise.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

5 Things I Learned While Writing My Dissertation


My dissertation is finally done and handed in and I have never been so relieved in my entire life. I worked so hard on it, and I'm really proud of the finished product. But now that I've had the opportunity to think back on the last nine-ish months, there are several things that I would do differently.

1) No matter how early you start, you will still panic about how much time you have
We were advised to start thinking about our dissertation in the summer after second year. This essentially gave us over a year to complete the work, but the majority of people didn't really start thinking about it until the beginning of third year, and didn't start writing it until after Christmas, which leaves very little time for breakdowns and freak-outs.

2) The detailed plan that I had at the beginning of the year is completely different to the piece of work that I actually handed in
The first idea that I had for my dissertation was to write about feminism within the Star Wars saga. I handed in 10 000 words about the gothic tropes of Harry Potter. Chances are, what you plan to write about and what you actually hand in will be two completely different things. And that's okay. It shows progression. If you hand in a piece of work that is identical to the plan you had six months before, chances are you haven't learnt anything from it. And if you haven't learnt anything from it, the person marking it won't either.

3) You need double the amount of research
If you thought researching a 2000 word essay was stressful, think again. Ideally, you should start researching as soon as you've got an idea, especially as that idea will evolve and change and most of your research will probably be irrelevant, as I learnt the hard way. You can't do too much research. The more you have, the better, because it means you can be selective about what goes into your final piece.

4) Ideally, you need to work on it every single day
This sounds ridiculous, but it's true. It doesn't have to be all day every day, but you should do SOMETHING on it every single day. Whether that's read an article or write 500 words, you should spend some time on your dissertation every single day.

5) Trying to edit as you go will cause you to have a mental breakdown
Your dissertation and specific focus will likely change every time you work on it, so trying to edit as you go is just a disaster waiting to happen. Your best bet is to just write and write and write until you have nothing left to say, and THEN edit to create this perfect document. Cutting down 12 000 words to 10 000 words will leave you with a much better product than trying to get up to the word count by adding in 100 words here and there.

Overall, I enjoyed writing my dissertation, but it's not something I would want to do again in a hurry. Ask any third year student and they will tell you the same thing - they are SICK of their topic and never want to look at it ever again. I can't say that's true for me - Harry Potter is and always will be my first love, but it has made me change the way I look at it. Pick a topic that you love and are genuinely interested in, and it will make the entire process so much easier.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Review: Beauty and the Beast

Image Credit: http://movies.disney.co.uk/beauty-and-the-beast-2017

HOLY. CRAP. INSERT ALL OF THE HEART-EYE EMOJI'S HERE!

I'm honestly finding it hard to form sentences. Beauty and the Beast is my all-time favourite film, and when I heard that they were doing a live-action remake, I was dubious. When I heard that they had cast Emma Watson as Belle, my six-year old self screamed, jumped up and down and did a little happy dance. My twenty-year old self then did the same thing.

I waited with bated breath, watched all the trailers, and counted down the days. I didn't see it on the opening night, but I finally watched it and IT WAS EVERYTHING I WANTED IT TO BE AND MORE.

I almost didn't want to see it because I knew that if it was awful, I would never be happy again. But it was AMAZING. Right from the opening scene, I had literal goosebumps. I was mesmerised. When it ended, I almost cried right then and there in the cinema. It was that good. Scene by scene, frame by frame compared to the original, it was perfect. Even the casting was amazing. Luke Evans as Gaston in particular was 10/10, everything that Gaston was supposed to be.

I could honestly sit here and write gushing things about this film forever, but ultimately, it was amazing and everyone should see it.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

A Letter to my Mum



Mum,

I cannot begin to thank you for everything that you have done for me over the last twenty-one years. I've said it before and I'll continue saying it until I'm blue in the face, but everything I am is because of you. I couldn't have finished my degree without you. Hell, I couldn't have started my degree without you. You inspire me everyday. I can only hope that I turn out to be half the person that you are. Even if we argue sometimes, you are the person I most want to be.

Happy Mother's Day, Mum.
I love you.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Confidence

Hi, my name is Nicole, and I'm obsessed with lipstick.

Anyone who knows me in 'real life' will know that this is true. I guess it started around the time we went to sixth form, because we didn't have uniform requirements and could therefore be a little more 'adventurous' than in years 7-11.

My favourite lipstick colour to this day is a classic postbox red, and I wore this to sixth form most days. Not everyday, but most days. I will pretty much always wear a red lip on nights out and for special occasions, and over time it has sort of become my trademark.

But the reason I started wearing it at all is not what you may think. It was not just a case of me liking the colour and wanting to wear it, for me it was so much more than that. It was about confidence. Anyone who knows me well will know that I am painfully shy and always have been. I am terrible at making conversation and I am perfectly happy sitting in silence with people unless I'm directly spoken to. I would rather listen than talk, and that's the way it's always been for me. So I started wearing red lipstick as a way of faking the confidence that I thought I should have had.

I can't remember for the life of me where I heard this from, but I read or heard somewhere a piece of advice that went: 'sometimes you just have to fake it to make it.' And this has always kinda stuck with me. I had just started sixth form, I was just turning eighteen, and I was surrounded by my friends, who were so beautiful, so confident and so self-assured, and I've just never been that way. So I faked it. I would wear my red lipstick and attempt to convince everyone that I had at least a shred of self-confidence, even though I didn't. On the days when I felt the most crap about myself, those are the days that I would make the most effort.

I faked it. And I continue faking it to this day. Self-confidence isn't something that I have in spades, so faking it has become part of my daily routine. Sometimes you've just gotta fake it to make it, and if you can't convince yourself, then you won't be able to convince anyone else.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Who Am I?

The particularly observant of you out there will notice that I haven't posted for a couple of weeks. There have been a number of reasons for this. One is that I've been incredibly ill, and haven't left the house for the best part of a week. Tonsillitis is the worst pain that I have ever known, and I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy.

The second is that I'm... lost. With this blog, with everything. My time at university is coming to an end, and I have absolutely no idea what I'm supposed to do now.  My entire life, I've had a clear plan in my head. I've spent every single day working towards it. I've done everything that I'm supposed to do. And yet it is still so far away. So close, but so far. God knows, I'm trying. I'm trying my hardest. I don't want to let anyone down. I don't want to be a burden. But I also don't want to end up in a job that I hate. The problem is that I don't know what I'm supposed to do. I'm twenty-one years old, and I feel like I should have life figured out by now. I look around and see all the people my age who have their lives together, and I can't help but compare myself to them.

Okay, I've gone off on a bit of a tangent. I'll tell you exactly what brought this on. My dad surprised me with a new book today: The Million Dollar Blog by Natasha Courtenay-Smith. He's so cute it almost kills me, but that's not the point. The book talks about figuring out exactly what you're trying to say, and what you want your blog to represent.

So I guess that's what I'm trying to figure out really. What am I trying to say? What am I trying to represent? Who the bloody hell am I?

Monday, 27 February 2017

How to Stop Worrying and Start Living

"My life has been full of terrible misfortunes, most of which never happened."
- Michel de Montaigne

Image Credit: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Worrying-Start-Living-Personal-
Development/dp/0749307234

I recently got a new book: How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie, and it's changing my life. I'm a worrier. I always have been. It's something that I've accepted that I'm probably never going to be able to change about myself, and I guess that's okay.

Over the last few years, particularly while I've been at university, I've noticed a change in myself. I was getting worse. I have managed to push my worries from everyday ones into full-blown anxiety, as put so eloquently by my doctor last year. But she said that I'm also incredibly good at hiding it. Which I am. I'm a self-taught expert. Because hiding it is by far easier than trying to explain to people how you feel.

I always hear the same stuff. I could give you five different responses without even thinking about it.
'Just don't worry about stuff.'
'Cheer up, it's not the end of the world.'
'Other people have far more to be worried about than you.'

All true. I don't have a shit life. And I don't know where my anxiety comes from. My insecurities? Probably. But aside from that, who knows? Your guess is as good as mine. But if I had a pound for every time someone told me to 'just stop worrying', I could have paid off my student loans by now. If I could, I would. It's not as simple as that. To me, it feels like the end of the world. It's feeling everything too strongly. It's going days without wanting to talk to anyone. It's sobbing hysterically at something that only kind of upset you. It's questioning all my friendships, my relationship with my boyfriend, because I feel like I have too much emotional baggage. It's feeling useless. It's feeling lost. It's feeling nothing and everything all at the same time.

Bright side? I'm improving, Slowly. I'm pushing myself out of my comfort zone, with major encouragement from my boyfriend. And tangent aside, this book is incredible. It's changing the way I think about things. Like the quote by Michel de Montaigne says, the majority of the stuff I'm worrying about won't even happen. This quote has really stuck with me since I read it, and I think it's something that everyone needs to hear. My life has been full of terrible misfortunes, in my head. I'm literally wasting time and energy on stuff that won't happen. 

'Life is in the living, in the tissue of every day and hour.'

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Family

It's Sunday afternoon, and I've just had a visit from my parents, who took me out to lunch. I see them fairly often and talk to them most days, but I still look forward to visits from them nonetheless.

And I'm incredibly grateful for them. I couldn't do half the stuff I do without them. We drive each other mad sometimes, but I wouldn't change them for the world. They have supported me through all of the ups and downs that life has brought me, and have done more for me than I will ever be able to pay them back for. They're the best parents I could have asked for.

If I could be anyone else in the entire world, I would want to be my sister. She's the head-strong, confident one who knows exactly what she wants and goes for it. I envy her her confidence. She can be a pain, but she's my sister, and one of my best friends.

I'm glad we're close. No matter what I do, how many wrong decisions I make, they've got my back. Always.


I hope I make them proud. They are my ultimate inspiration for everything.

Monday, 6 February 2017

My Experience With: Indoor Skydiving!


I can't quite believe I'm saying this (writing this?) but on Saturday I went indoor skydiving. Anyone who knows me in real life will know that I'm not a particularly adventurous person, but this year I am trying to step out of my comfort zone and expand my horizons.

To sum it up in one word: weird. It was so odd! You basically get two one-minute slots, and an instructor literally holds you up because it is not an easy thing. The instructors were so good, and made the whole experience easier. The wind tunnel is loud, and on my first go I was concentrating too hard on remembering to breathe to be any good at it.

It's harder than it looks. Although I feel kinda silly because I was so worried about it but there were groups of six-year-olds doing it with no problem. Me and my ridiculous mind!

But I DID IT. And I will celebrate this small achievement with everything that I have. And I have this incredibly flattering picture as a reminder. If anyone can look good while doing this, kudos to you.


8/10 - highly recommend!

Sunday, 29 January 2017

What If?

Image Credit: https://fredericksburg.today/what-if

One of the questions I get asked the most by family members, and friends who didn't go to university, is this:

'If you could go back to sixth form and do this all over again, would you?'

I go back and forth on the answer to this question a lot. If you had asked me a year ago, I would have said absolutely not. Second year was, to put it bluntly, crap, for so many reasons. I nearly dropped out of university all together, and then where would I have ended up?

If you had asked me an hour ago, when I was having my third breakdown of the week about my dissertation, which refuses to come together, I would have said no. It's not worth it.

But now that the rational side of my brain is back in working order, I can really consider the question. Would I do this all over again? And honestly? I still don't think I would. I don't regret going and I'm glad that I did, but I don't think I could do it all over again. University is hard. Emotionally, it's almost ruined me. It's not that the university I go to is bad - quite the opposite. I love the course and I love the city, but university life is not quite what I thought it was going to be. I don't know what I was expecting really, but I just pictured it differently, I guess. No matter what university you go to, I think everyone will agree that it is not worth the money. I would love to see a breakdown of what exactly our £8500 a year goes on, because I think a lot of people would be surprised.

And I am not the only one who feels this way. I was having a discussion about this very thing with my housemates and friends from other universities, and we all said the same thing: given the chance, we wouldn't go to university again. Isn't that sad?

I don't know... maybe that says more about us than it does about university in general, but I think it's shocking that so many people I know wouldn't choose to do this again.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Women's March 2017 | Gender Equality

Image Credit: https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=gender+equality&biw=13
66&bih=662&source=lnms&tbm=isch&s
a=X&ved=0ahUKEwjbwvzUhtnRAhVLKcAKHUMODFIQ_AUIBigB#imgrc=L5
OXRnXSCxrHHM%3A

Feminism is a dirty word.

To admit to being a feminist gets you greeted with looks of surprise, despite my being a female.

Nevertheless, I am a feminist. Or an equalist, if that word suits you better.

I am not a man-hater. I believe in the equality of the sexes. And to me, this is uncomplicated. I believe that men and women should be treated equally in all aspects of life. The Women's March that took place all around the world was a massive source of inspiration to me - women and men are coming together in order to make their voices heard. But it's 2017, and the fact that we are still having to do this is unbelievable. It is not too much to ask that everyone is afforded equal rights, all around the world. Many would argue that women in the UK and other first world countries are much further ahead, and therefore have nothing to complain about. This is true in some sense - I am extremely privileged to live in a country where the level of inequality is much lower than in other countries around the world. But this does not mean that our work is done. Just because women in this country are in a better place than most, does not mean that it's 'fine'. Both men AND women suffer the effects of gender inequality.

As a student of English Literature, I've done a lot of studying on feminism. And a similar argument comes up again and again: 'Well, women can vote and they can work, what else do they want?'

What else do we want?

We want gender equality all over the world. To be able to vote and work in some countries does not mean that we have achieved equality. The sheer fact that voting and working is still seen as a privilege, and not a right for women proves that our work is not done.
Abortion is still illegal in many countries. Inequality.
Men are unable to talk about mental health issues without being ridiculed. Inequality.
Girls in African countries are not being given an education. Inequality.

If you still hate the word feminism, fine. If you can't claim to be a feminist for the people in this country, then at least support feminism for the people in other countries, all around the world. This is not a singular issue. This effects everyone. Not just women, but men also. Emma Watson sums it up best in her speech for the UN in 2014: 'How can we affect change in the world when only half of it is invited, or feel welcome, to participate?'

'Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong.'

Feminism = gender equality. Everyone should be able to be exactly who they are, unapologeticlly.

Click here for Emma Watson's UN speech.
Check out my friend's blog post on the same subject!

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Word of the Year: Trust

Image Credit: http://makelyhome.com/haven-conference-2013-recap/

I've personally never heard of this concept, but apparently it's a thing. Picking a word of the year that reflects what you want to do or achieve.

Based on my new year's resolutions, I've decided that my word of the year is: trust. 

I need to trust myself. I need to trust that I know what's right for me. I'm a self-confessed people-pleaser and always have been, but I need to start relying on myself and trusting myself to make the right decisions for me. This year is going to be a crazy one - I'll be graduating from university and going out into the big wide world. I haven't got a clue what I'm going to end up doing. I know what I WANT to be doing, and I know what OTHER people want me to be doing, but as to what will actually happen, I have absolutely no idea.

At the end of the day, I need to make decisions based on myself, and no one else. I'm the one who has to live with them, and if I end doing something I hate just because someone else told me that I should, then I'll never forgive myself. My dream is to teach. It always has been. It's gonna take me a little bit longer to get there than I thought, but I refuse to give in.

I'm realising that I can't control everything and I should just stop trying.

I'm going with the flow.

I'm trusting myself.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Review: 2016

2016 was a really good year for me. And I'm not one to normally say that - I believe in balance and I constantly worry that for every good thing that happens to me, something bad will happen too. True story. I don't understand my brain sometimes. Most of the time, actually. But I digress...

I've done a ton of awesome stuff: zorbing, surfing, the fastest zip wire in the world, got a tattoo, passed my second year and started my final year at university, kept up with yoga and meditation and got my anxiety mostly under control. The difference in myself between this time last year and right now is mad. And I've been to so many incredible places this year!




My resolutions from last year were:
1) Stop biting my nails
A big fat NOPE for this one. I had a breakthrough somewhen in the middle of the year and they actually got quite long, but it lasted for about a week. Back on the list for this year!

2) Change computer/phone wallpaper every month
I actually did this up until about September. Being back at university means the days and weeks just blur together, and I completely lost track of doing it. I'm good with the background I've got at the moment, it's time to move on.

3) Post on Facebook more
Meh. Sort of. I've been sharing things more than actually posting things myself. Although Facebook will feature in my resolutions this year - watch this space! Or scroll down. You know, whatever works.

4) Take more pictures - YESSSS!
Ever since having my gratitude app (which I have a post on!), I've taken at least one picture every single day. Even before having the app I was taking more pictures, so I'm counting this one!

5) Write gratitudes everyday - YESSS!
I kind of covered these last two in my post on The Gift of Gratitudes, but I have written at least one gratitude every single day for this last year. That's one of the things I'm most proud of. What a fantastic year it's been.

I'm so looking forward to what 2017 will bring. I'm ready.